As a critic, there is a certain amount of pressure to like the alternative, the avant garde, the relentlessly highbrow. The thought is that you’ll take someone’s opinions more seriously if they say their favourite film is Battleship Potemkin, and their favourite show is an obscure Greek drama set in a mental hospital than if you choose Love Actually and Family Fortunes. So, with that in mind, I’m going out on a limb here. I really like Alan Titchmarsh.
He’s just a good egg. He’s not rock’n’roll, he’s not dangerous or irreverent or controversial. But he’s so genial, such an affable, decent soul, it’s hard not to warm to him. Plus, in my book, he is and always will be a hero for sending the indescribably rude, boorish and sexist John McCririck off his chat show for a vile attack on Ingrid Tarrant.
Anyway, good old Al has made a new series. In it, he travels to some of the nation’s most cutting edge nightclubs, looking for the best drum’n’bass DJ currently operating on the underground clubbing circuit. Not really. He’s doing gardens again. In this series, he and his team are visiting deserving families whose gardens need a pep up. So pretty much like every other series he’s ever done.
Then again, if it ain’t broke… And it isn’t. It’s actually, in its own modest, quiet way, rather lovely. This week, Alan visited Nina Seedhouse. Nina’s husband, Gareth, died of cancer less than a year ago, leaving her a widow with three young children. Gareth had dedicated his life to beautifying the parks and green spaces of Walsall, and was planning to renovate the garden at the family’s new home, before he died last July. Instead, the garden sits, a forlorn and empty patch of lawn. Poignantly, his spade was resting where he had last left it in the garden.
Enter Alan and the team. Their brief was to recreate his plans for the garden, including a play area for the kids, a fruit and veg patch, and a relaxing area for Nina. Pretty hard in a back yard. “It’s a small garden,” opined Alan, “in terms of space.” As opposed to in terms of what? Intellect?
Anyway, there followed the usual race against the clock, amidst much eye-rolling, joshing and rather forced banter, which would drive you mad if it was delivered by someone else. But it’s just Alan being Alan.
At the end, the garden was beautiful, if a little busy for my tastes. Some of the ideas were brilliant (there was a hugely moving tribute to Gareth and his spade), others less so (plastic plants, anyone?) But that’s all down to taste. What you couldn’t argue with was the programme’s heart, right up to its surprisingly moving finale. Alan seemed genuinely emotional too. Like I say, good bloke.
Love Your Garden, Tuesday, June 23, 8pm, ITV